Soccer has tremendously evolved since its humble beginnings that date all the way to ancient Egypt. With the evolution of the game itself came the development of the ball that was used to play soccer. When we consider the modern-day soccer, we can trace its origins to the 19th century England and the division between the associations of rugby and soccer into two distinct governing bodies and thus two very different sports. It was then when the first rules were noted and first competitions, like the FA cup, emerged. Certain provisions regarding the ball size and shape were also established, some of which stand even today.
Rubber Bladder Ball
The main piece of equipment needed to play soccer is a soccer ball. In the 19th century, the majority of Europe used inflated animal bladder, usually that of a pig. With the discovery of vulcanized rubber by Charles Goodyear in 1836, the inner casing was strengthened and was able to withstand higher pressure, whereas the outer layer was made of 18 patches of leather.
This modified version allowed the players to have greater control over the ball. However, the water retention properties of leather made the balls quite heavy and potentially very dangerous. There were cases where players who were heading the ball suffered from minor concussions and were even hospitalized after playing the game.
Richard Buckminster Fuller is the man behind the ball design we are most likely to associate with soccer. This ball was the first one that featured 20 hexagonal and 12 pentagonal black and white patches, and the first one that was made entirely out of synthetic materials. The goal was to produce the ball that will retain the properties of leather and have a perfect spherical shape.
In 1970, Adidas Telstar ball was used for the FIFA World Cup and was the first ball made according to Buckminster’s design. Also, it was the first ball to have a polyurethane coating, making it waterproof and resistant to wear and tear.
What is considered to be one of the best FIFA World Cups is the one held in France, in 1998. Breaking rating records and having an enormous crowd in the stands is not the only thing that marked this tournament. The first ever multi-colored ball was used, hence the name “Tricolore” which stands for three colors. The design that featured colors of France and a cockerel honored the host country well and made that ball one of the all-time favorites among both professional players and the ordinary people.
The history of development in soccer balls and equipment is rich and diverse, and it comes as no surprise that the balls today are manufactured with such precision and technological advancement that even gossips of balls with electronic chips can be heard. However, technology can never change that raw energy and passion behind the most popular sport in the world.